Ross Ulbricht, founder of the Silk Road darkweb marketplace and better known by his moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts”, has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Katherine B. Forrest, just moments after Ulbricht, in his navy blue prison uniform pleaded for leniency.
Yet no leniency was given, and the judge handed down the longest sentence permissible by law, the minimum would have been 20 years.
She spoke also of five murders commissioned by Ulbricht, though none of the murders took place, they were part of an elaborate scam, two of which were against associates of his that had turned informant.
She said that there was no democracy on the Silk Road, Ulbricht ruled by fear as the captain of the ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Judge Forrest also stated that the very idea of the Silk Road was to be beyond the law, and that “Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its creator was better than the laws of this country.
This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.”
Ulbricht of course denied this, saying that he is no sociopath; he made a series of terrible mistakes, but that the idea of the Silk Road was not to reveal some inner badness, but instead to encourage people to make choices and to choose anonymity and privacy.
The sentence has understandably drawn a large amount of criticism, especially from Ulbricht’s defense team. His chief defense attorney Joshua Dratel was already demanding a retrial due to the revelation that two agents on the case were seriously corrupt, and had stolen millions in bitcoin from the site, that went into their personal accounts.
Carl Mark Force is also charged with blackmail and feeding information about the investigation to Ulbricht.
Remarking on the life sentence, Dratel said that it was “unreasonable, unjust, unfair and based on improper consideration with no basis in fact or law”.
He also added that he was tremendously disappointed.
She said that sentence will have no positive impact in deterring future offenders.
Life without parole “is the worst possible outcome, not just for [him] personally, but also in the disdain for harm reduction shown by the prosecution and the judge”, she said.
“They are sharply out of step with all those who recognize exactly what it means to prioritize safety in an environment of drug prohibition.
That’s what Silk Road did to the extent that it was possible, and the Drug Policy Alliance will continue to support harm reduction wherever it arises.”
However Judge Forrest dismissed those claims, and handed down the ultimate sentence.
While Ulbricht pleaded for a chance to prove his worth to the world as a free man, after decades of incarceration, she refused coldly.
She denied that the Silk Road was some naive experiment or youthful mistake.
“It was a carefully planned life’s work. It was your opus,” she said.
“You wanted it to be your legacy. And it is.”
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